Howard University students are complaining that local residents have used the university’s campus to walk their dogs, picnic, and even sunbathe. The students claim that locals are disrespecting The Yard, an open area on campus surrounded by buildings, by using it as a dog park.
“The Yard is for students and although everyone loves pets, I feel like it’s disrespectful to have the pets just running around, especially when there are several parks around here,” sophomore Malakhi Briggs told Fox5 DC. “If they come on The Yard and they’re just walking through, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but I still feel like there are other ways to get around DC without having to cut through a college campus.”
Freshman David Edgerton III agreed that using The Yard to walk a dog is disrespectful. He told The Washington Post that white residents did not appear to know the history or traditions of Howard University, which has ties to W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Frederick Douglass.
“It’s okay if you walk around [but] when you bring your dog and desecrate our sacred lands, it would be the same thing as if you were to pee on the White House lawn,” Edgerton said. “The purpose of this institution was to give people who did not have an opportunity before an opportunity. When people come onto campus and disrespect that ideology, of course students are going to be angry.”
In a statement about the controversy, Howard President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick called the university’s campus a “beautiful, sacred space that provides comfort and, in many ways, sanctuary in a place that feels more like a second home than merely an academic institution.”
Frederick noted that Howard is aware of the concerns regarding dog walking on campus, and said he reached out to the local Advisory Neighborhood Committees (ANC) and a local council member to further discuss the issue.
“We recognize that service animals are a necessary aspect of modern-day life and we will accommodate them as needed,” Frederick wrote. “We appreciate pet owners respecting our campus by not bringing pets onto the private areas.”
Frederick’s statement comes after a white resident’s suggestion that the 152-year-old historically Black university move its campus if students do not want to deal with residents’ pets went viral.
“So, they’re in a part of DC, so they have to work within DC. If they don’t want to be within DC then they can move the campus. I think we just need to work together and I don’t think it should be a he or there or here… It’s our community and that’s how it should be,” Sean Grubbs-Robishaw, a white area resident, told Fox5 DC.
Grubbs-Robishaw was quickly blasted on social media by people who noted that Howard has been an institution since 1867 and The Yard was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001. Many suggested Howard fence its campus or start fining people for trespassing.
“Whether they like it or not, #HBCUs [historically Black colleges and universities] are national landmarks and a very big party [sic] of American history so to make a conscious choice and effort to defile those grounds goes beyond disrespect,” Akil Kamau, the former vice president of administration for the Howard University Alumni Association, tweeted.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.